Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

Logic of English Foundations: A Great Start in Reading and Spelling April 26, 2015

Filed under: Curriculum,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:55 pm
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We’ve been using Logic of English products in our homeschool for about three years now! I’ve written mostly about my experiences using Logic of English Essentials, a program that’s generally best for Ages 7 and up.  Today I’m excited to share about my experiences using Logic of English Foundations with Mr. K, who is currently 6. DSC_0694

I’m actually using the Foundations material for the second time.  I purchased a beta-test version of the Foundations curriculum when Mr. E was in Kindergarten.  I didn’t get in on the first round of beta testers in the fall of Mr. E’s Kindergarten year, and purchased it about half-way through that year.  The Foundations lessons weren’t in their final form yet, everything was in PDF (so workbook pages had to be printed out), and I had already been teaching him reading using standard phonics and some Logic of English methods for almost an entire year before we even began Foundations — so I didn’t feel my experience was “typical” enough to really write about it.

Mr. K is my first child that I have taught to read entirely using Logic of English materials (not counting adding in additional easy-reader/phonics books)!  I began Logic of English Foundations A very slowly when Mr. K was about 4.5, and we continued through his whole PreK year.  Since I felt pretty comfortable with teaching the initial 26 phonograms, we used the program pretty loosely, and mostly when he felt like working on it.  By the end of the last school year, he was reading most any CVC word, and knew all the sounds of those first 26 phonograms.

I waited until this fall to teach him lower case letter formation — he really just wasn’t interested last year as a pre-K’er.  He had taught himself how to make upper case letters, and was content with that.  So, after an initial couple weeks spent on letter formation, we started Logic of English Foundations B near the beginning of this past fall when Mr. K was 5.5 and a Kindergartener.

Mr. K absolutely loves “doing dragon” as he calls Logic of English Foundations (the workbook covers have cute dragon illustrations).  He loves that the lessons have a lot of variety, including games and movement activities.  This year we’ve shot at phonograms with a nerf gun, drove toy trains around a track to “follow the directions,” crawled through the tunnel of a “silent e machine,” as well as plenty of hopping, skipping, slapping and tossing baskets as we practice words and phonograms. Mr. K also loves the satisfaction of writing words and reading interesting books that are included at the back of the workbook.

LoE Foundations 2014-2015

There are a lot of things I love about Foundations — the teacher manual is well laid-out and easy to understand, it’s easy to keep the attention of even a distractable kid, and the prep-work for me is minimal. Lessons typically include a short phonogram and/or spelling rule lesson, sometimes a phonemic awareness activity, phonogram practice (usually a game or active activity), a couple of interesting workbook pages (they might be matching, reading, rhyming, or writing) and five spelling words to write down.  After each five regular lessons, there’s a review lesson.

For us, an average pace of about three lessons per week has been just about perfect.  We finished level B in January and moved right on to level C, which we should finish up right as we end the school year at the end of May.  Early on we may have done closer to four lessons per week, and it has been a bit more of a challenge to complete three lessons per week in the second half of level C as the lessons get a bit longer.

It’s hard to think of very much I don’t like about Foundations! Perhaps the one thing I’ve noticed is those pacing differences as we progress in C.  I feel like the last handful of phonograms are being presented a bit more quickly and there is more material to cover.   I know Mr. K needs more time to learn all these new phonograms — and with so many new phonograms he as started to confuse some “old” ones he had previously mastered! So, I’m not really expecting mastery of all the more obscure phonograms.  While I have followed the teacher manual for Foundations a lot more closely than I follow the teacher manuals for a lot of programs, if there is one thing we’ve slacked on a bit, it is probably phonogram games —  certain games take longer than others (card games in particular), or introduce extra distractions as our three-year-old thinks he should play too (it’s tough to tell the toddler that he can’t have a turn to shoot the phonograms, so we usually just let him have a turn too).  We’ll play extra phonogram games all summer and review them next year as well in Level D, which should hopefully make up for this shortcoming.

Mr. K is a pretty good reader for a six-year-old Kindergartener.  While we haven’t done a lot of reading outside of Foundations lessons lately, I am excited for a break from new lessons in the summer just to read! With having had at least exposure to all the basic phonograms by the end of the school year, he’ll be ready to dive into plenty of real books.

Overall, I highly recommend Logic of English Foundations if you have a 4-6 year old who is ready to learn letters and letter sounds.  With the variety of activities, it should be adaptable to the needs of children with many personalities and learning styles.  If you are hoping for a quick “sit for ten minutes a day and get it done” sort of program with no other activities or extras, you might not enjoy Foundations as much.   But if you want to tackle teaching reading and spelling in a fun, multisensory approach, then Foundations is definitely a curriculum you should consider.

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Our Continuing Experiences with Logic of English — Part 1 (The 2013-2014 school year) February 25, 2015

Filed under: Curriculum,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:37 pm
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IMG_20130927_141540When logging back into my blog after my long blogging hiatus, one thing I noticed is that my various posts about Logic of English are still getting frequent visits.   We’re still using and benefiting from Logic of English, and I feel like I have learned as an instructor how I can better use the Logic of English techniques and curricula with my students.

To read a little bit about our past journey with Logic of English, you can check out these posts:

I’ll pick up in this post where I left off in the last post, which I wrote at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.  That year, I had finished up using Essentials with Miss M (a third grader at the time), and had completed most of the beta-test lessons of Logic of English Foundations (we primarily used what became levels B and C) with Mr. E (a Kindergartener at the time).

As I had planned, I used the Advanced Lists for Essentials with Miss M (4th grader at the time), and started working through Essentials with the basic lists for Mr. E (a 1st grader at the time).

One of the first things that went out the door was the idea of keeping both kids together on the same “week” of the curriculum with different lists.  Mr. E wasn’t ready for a full Essentials lesson each week.  Had Foundations D been available that year when Mr. E was a 1st grader, it would have been a perfect fit).  He had a basic knowledge of the phonograms, but needed more practice at using them.  He needed more reading practice with early readers and easy chapter books to gain fluency.  But, alas, Foundations D wasn’t published until this school year due to various delays.    As it was, I tried my best to make reviewing phonograms and learning the spelling rules fun for Mr. E while we worked through Essentials, and we varied in pace through the year, doing half lessons some weeks and full lessons other weeks.  By the end of the school year, we had completed about 25 lessons.   He made lots of reading progress through the year as he practiced reading daily, and was spelling more than adequately for a first grader!

Miss M had a mixed experience last year with the Advanced Lists for essentials.  The advanced lists for Essentials weren’t necessarily designed as a “second year” of Essentials, though they certainly can be used that way.  The LoE website describes them as an “alternate” to the basic lists provided in Essentials.   Not having any other ideas of what to do with Miss M for spelling and knowing she needed continued instruction and practice, we gave the “Advanced Lists” a go.

Without a doubt, Miss M’s spelling continued to improve as she practiced analyzing and then learning a list of 25 words each week.  However, some words on the advanced list were almost too easy or were repeats from the previous year, while other words were quite challenging.  “Ice” was too easy, while “Cacophony” was not only a spelling and vocabulary challenge, it was a word that my 4th grader was unlikely to need to read, much less spell, any time soon.

I wish I would have realized before the end of the year that 25 words is too long of a list for Miss M in particular.  We’ve used much shorter lists for spelling this year (more about that in an upcoming post), and she is much better at mastering new words, however difficult, when she is less overwhelmed by a long list.

Meanwhile, Mr. K (who turned 5 in February of 2014), started showing a growing interest in learning to read.  Since, as a beta tester, I already had in hand the Foundations materials, I began working through Foundations A with him in January of 2014.   He turned out to be a natural at many of the phonemic awareness activities! With very little practice or prompting, he was able to blend, segment and identify beginning, ending and middle sounds.  Most of the spring of last school year for Mr. K was spent with me loosely going through Foundations A to teach him the sounds of the first 26 phonograms, then helping him with reading the I See Sam beginning readers.   He wasn’t very interested in learning to write, so I decided to save that for Fall 2014, his Kindergarten year.

At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, I was definitely pleased with everyone’s progress.  But I also knew I needed to take things a little bit of a different direction for Miss M and Mr. E, while at the same time really diving into Foundations B with Mr. K.   More on that in my next post!

 

Logic of English Essentials: A One-Year-Later Review May 12, 2013

Filed under: Curriculum,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:45 pm
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I mention our use of Logic of English Essentials pretty regularly in my week-in-review posts, but it has been many months since I’ve written a comprehensive post with our thoughts about the program.  It’s now been a little over a year since we started the program and Miss M (age almost 9, third grade) has completed 36 of the 40 lessons of the program.  We took a break for a part of the summer, spent two weeks on a few lessons, and of course had a few other vacation weeks during the year — which explains why in about 55 weeks we have not finished a 40-lesson program.  🙂

IMG_20121204_115456

As a bit of background, here are a few other posts I’ve written about Logic of English:

A review of the book “Uncovering the Logic of English”

My initial review of Logic of English Essentials (also includes background of our previous spelling curricula attempts).

My last long “update” post from late last summer

A post about how I organized my LoE flashcards and game cards

 

I’ll just cut to the chase and talk about results first, then go back to some nitty gritty details of how we’ve used the program and our plans for the future.

Just to give you an idea of where Miss M was coming from shortly before starting LoE, here’s a few sentences she wrote last winter (Jan – March of 2012, 2nd grade):

On a worksheet about the five senses asking, “What did you smell,” Miss M wrote: “I donde no waet I smeld.”

A few more example sentences (they seem random, because they are from a writing curriculum we tried last winter and are in response to various prompts or pictures):

“I licke free time becus I can do waet evr I want.”

“The chilin are sackbordin.”

“I had cholitk melk. It was fomy.”

“My famly went on are vry frst bike ride this yaer.”

So, you can see why I was very eager to find a spelling curriculum that would work for us.  Not only was Miss M making a lot of errors (though possibly not more than some other 2nd graders), her errors didn’t necessarily make sense…they weren’t always even phonetically regular errors!  There were times when she would write something out, and later herself couldn’t even read what she wrote because of the types of spelling errors she was making. She told me she hated writing because it was so hard to figure out how to spell everything.

 

So what does Miss M’s writing look like now?

 

I don’t have a ton of examples handy of Miss M’s recent writing.  I made conscious decision to focus on spelling this year, and not ask very much in terms of a formal writing program.  Miss M has, however, recently taken up writing notes back and forth with a neighbor friend. She typically has me check these notes for spelling errors.  Here’s a recent note with spelling errors intact:

“Dear L______

I got your letter.   It was wet and hard to read.  Why was it outsid in the rain?  What kind of feald trip did you go on today?”

So, two errors.  Miss M found the “outside” error quickly when I asked her to look at that word again.  I then praised her choice of a phonogram for the /long e/ sound of “field,”  in that it was a choice that made sense — then I let her know what phonogram she should have used instead.

Miss M is only eight (she turns 9 in a few days!).  I don’t expect perfect spelling from her. But I am super pleased that when she does make mistakes it is often a letter carelessly left out or written out of order (that she can find quickly upon review), a wrong-but-logical phonogram choice, or a word she really can’t figure out (but almost always knows she has spelled the word wrong, and marks it that way before she hands it over to me for editing).

As she is writing notes on an almost daily basis these days (and doesn’t have to think so hard about how to spell each and every word), she’s applying her knowledge of spelling to the words she uses frequently, and is more consistently remembering which phonograms to use and how to apply the rules she has learned this year.

One of my favorite comments from her recently came when I was reviewing a note in which she had spelled the word “flower” correctly, and I had praised her for this spelling.  Her comment  was, “Mom, I used a lot of logic to figure that one out.”   🙂  I think she may have had “flower” on a spelling list at some point, but hadn’t used that word much since then.  Now she has the tools and “logic” to figure out a word like that even if she didn’t have the spelling automatically memorized.

Now on to a few “nitty gritty details”, for those readers looking for that sort of thing!

 

How we used Logic of English Essentials:

 

First, I want to say that I am terrible at using curricula as written.  I don’t think I use a single product exactly the way it is supposed to be used.  I am always tweaking, modifying, changing and experimenting. So these adaptations we have made are no knock on the curriculum.  I end up “changing” even the things I really like.  🙂

Each and every week we used the “lesson” on new phonograms, spelling rules, exploring sounds, and so on.  We often played phonogram games and occasionally played spelling games.   I dictated a spelling list to Miss M on each non-review week.  We did some spelling journal assignments.

For us, I found the grammar was too much for our priorities this year.  I started out doing aLoE Spelling Journal few of the basic grammar lessons at the beginning of the program.  But things started getting a bit more complex, and I didn’t find Miss M was retaining the information without spending a lot of time on it.  Given that Miss M was only 8 for most of the the school year (we started using the program when she was seven), I know she has plenty of time to learn more grammar.   We used an alternative, fun program to learn the parts of speech (Sentence Family — read my review here), and shelved the grammar portion of Logic of English Essentials.

We also were somewhat sporadic about the writing exercises and sentence or phrase dictation.  For much of the year Miss M found sentence dictation to be really stressful.  I think she might be ready for more of that next year.  As the program went on I noticed a lot of the written exercises were tied in to the grammar lessons, so I decided to find other ways for Miss M to practice writing her spelling words.

 

What did our week look like? Here is what our typical LoE spelling week looked like for most of the year:

 

Logic of English AppMonday: Together, I would introduce the lesson — new phonograms, spelling rules, and so on (basically, all the parts of the lesson before the spelling list.  After the Logic of English Phonogram App was released, Miss M would also be assigned independent phonogram practice with the app

Tuesday: Spelling list dictation.   Because Miss M didn’t like the thin paper in the workbook if she happened to need to erase, I started having her do her lists in her own spelling notebook (just a little blank notebook from Target).  After we developed that habit, Logic of English released an e-book version of the workbook.  For students that don’t like the thin paper of the printed workbook, printing just the pages you need from the ebook is a good option as well.

Wednesday: Independent spelling practice with Spelling City.  I copied each and every list into spelling city, so Miss M could practice with the games on the computer.  If we had time, sometimes we also did a game for phonograms and/or spelling words.   On weeks where a Spelling Journal assignment made sense, she would sometimes do those as well.

Thursday: Independent practice of spelling words out loud (Miss M finds it helpful to read the word and then spell it out loud a few times), and also either Spelling City practice or a phonogram or spelling game together.

Friday: End of week test/assessment using the Spelling City app on the iPad.  I am terrible about not giving hints with my facial expressions when giving spelling tests, so Miss M takes her test from an “unbiased tester”.  🙂

 

Plans for Next Year:

 

We’re almost done with our school year, and due to standardized testing and other plans during the next two weeks, we’re now on “summer break” from formal spelling instruction.  Of course, I’m sure Miss M will still be writing notes to her friends, giving her ample real-life practice with spelling.  🙂

Including the final review week, Miss M still has four lessons left to complete her initial run through the Essentials program.  At this point I plan to complete those lessons with her in the late summer.  Then when we start the 2013-2014 school year next September, we will go through the Alternate/Advanced lists available on the Logic of English blog for LoE Essentials.

I have not yet decided if we will use the grammar portion next year.  I have another grammar program in mind I had previously planned to use with my kids starting in 4th or 5th grade, but I don’t yet own that program so I need to do further research as to what I think will be best for Miss M.

If you read my earlier posts about Essentials, you may have noticed I originally planned to use the program with Mr. E, my Kindergartener, as well this past year.   I did try and use portions of Essentials with him all fall — but I had a hard time getting the pacing and activities right for him.  I ended up buying the Logic of English Foundations Beta in January to use with both Mr. E and Mr. K.   In retrospect I really wish I would have bought it when it was first available in August!  But it has been a wonderful nearly five months of using it (mainly with Mr. E so far).  I am nearly all the way through Foundations, and that will deserve a review post all its own.

But, since Mr. E has completed what is currently written of the Foundations program (levels A-D, though really mostly C and D since he came into that program with prior knowledge), I need to continue his reading and spelling instruction next year as well!

Unless something wonderful and new comes along between then and now, I plan to try again on Essentials with Mr. E in the fall when he is a first grader.  A lot will be review — but I think that’s okay, because he seems to be retaining his reading knowledge from Foundations better than he is retaining/applying his spelling knowledge at this point.

I have this idea of keeping Miss M and Mr. E on the same “week” of the program with different lists, so they could review the same phonograms, spelling rules, etc together and maybe, just maybe even do some grammar work together.  I have no idea if this will actually work out for us! (I guess you can follow my blog and check back next year to see how it goes.)  🙂

 

Organizing the Logic of English Flash Cards and Game Cards March 6, 2013

Filed under: Getting Organized,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 2:56 pm
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I finally got around to organizing all my Logic of English flash cards and game cards last night! This project has been a few months in the procrastinating making.  😉

Logic of English Cards

With only one student doing a Logic of English program, organizing the phonogram flash cards was pretty simple.  I kept a pile handy of the cards we were working on, and the rest were in a drawer in a baggie or held together with a rubber band.  Even adding a second student, Mr E, didn’t cause too many problems at first because I was going through the Essentials program very slowly with him and not using too many cards.   At this point I also wasn’t making very good use of the spelling rule cards, so those just sat mostly unused in another bag.

But chaos broke loose with my phonogram cards once I started Mr. K in the Foundations program and transitioned Mr. E to this program as well.  Now I had stacks for cards Mr. K was using, cards mastered by Mr. E but not by Mr K (but that Mr K will need in upcoming lessons), cards currently needed by Mr. E, cards needed by Miss M, cards Miss M had mastered but were not needed yet for Mr E and finally cards no one is using yet (but of course Miss M will need in the upcoming weeks).  Oh, and plus those spelling rule cards! Whew, that’s a lot of cards!

The Logic of English flash cards are a bit of a challenge to organize because they are bigger than typical 4×6 cards, and are also too wide to fit in many of the other random plastic boxes I had around the house or could easily find at Target.

After much searching online and asking for advice on forums, the best option I came up with at first is the box I purchased (see the picture above — or here on the Target website). I liked the fact that the game cards also fit in the box, but I was a bit disappointed not to have a storage box with a lid!  I’ve found what I think will be safe place to store the box so that it’s less likely to be tipped over by our curious toddler.

After I bought this box I did find a couple of options for 5×8 file card boxes that close with a lid (here and here).   I’m going to see how things go with the box I purchased, but I’ll be keeping this type of box in mind for the future if we have too many spills of the no-lid box.  😉

In order to avoid buying special large divider cards, I made some using cardstock — I just needed to trim a bit off the side of a standard letter-sized piece, and then cut each piece in half.  I then hand-cut the tabs (as I’m sure you can tell from their uneven sizing!).

As of right now the game cards aren’t very well organized.  They are just separated into three groups – cursive, bookface, and special cards.  A project for a future day would be to organize them better by who might use them for a game.

 

Collage Friday: Halloween, a Birthday (and a bit of school too)! November 2, 2012

Filed under: Math,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 3:50 pm
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We were probably a bit less productive than usual in terms of schoolwork this week.  Monday Miss M had an eye exam in the middle of the day, plus we had other errands.  Tuesday we celebrated Baby J turning one year old!

We had a few neighbor families over for cupcakes after dinner on Tuesday night.  Between cleaning the house for the party, making cupcakes, gymnastics class, and another appointment Tuesday afternoon…Tuesday was almost a wash as far as school was concerned.  🙂

Then Wednesday was, of course, Halloween.  While we had nothing special going on during the day, the kids had just a bit of trouble focusing on schoolwork.  But hey, it’s math if we calculate the number of hours from any given time to the time for trick-or-treating, right?

Miss M dressed as Raggedy Ann and went out some of her best friends (and their dads) to trick-or-treat.  Tony, dressed as Abraham Lincoln, took our two “Junior Avengers” (Mr. E as Hawkeye and and Mr. K as Captain America) — another neighbor friend was Iron Man, so we had quite a few of the Avengers represented.  Baby J got to wear the same Frog costume Mr. K wore as a baby.  Such is the life of a 4th child.   Baby J stayed home with me to help hand out candy.  He was bummed that I wouldn’t give any to him!

Thursday was a pretty normal day (other than being tired from staying up late the night before.  Today (Friday) we had a regular school morning followed by two public school friends who had a day off today spending the afternoon at our house.

Despite our exciting week, we did make some educational progress: 🙂

Spelling:  It was a review week for Miss M (age 8, 3rd grade) in Logic of English Essentials (lesson 15).  I finally had her make spelling word cards for review and practice of words she decided she needed more practice on.  I’m not sure why we didn’t do that on the other review weeks!  We tried to do a spelling word Pictionary of sorts, as well as a “guess the word from a description of that word” type of game, with Mr. E (age 5.5, grade K) having a stack of Miss M’s words, and Miss M having a stack of words that Mr. E should know.   The spelling part of these games were fine, but it took forever for the kids to guess the word they were supposed to be spelling.  Neither one was able to draw or describe very well in a way the other could understand.  It was pretty funny.

Mr. E also finished the spelling words in Lesson #4 of LOE-E, (though he still needs more practice on the phonograms from that lesson), did a couple pages of Explode the Code 3, and practiced reading each day.

Preschool:  I don’t write very often about what Mr K (age 3.5, preschool) is doing.  To be honest, I am not doing a lot of stuff specifically with him.  He spends a TON of time listening and watching what Mr. E is doing for school, and plenty of time doing what 3.5 year olds are typically doing – listening to stories, playing, coloring, etc.  Most weeks, he gets a special more focused time with me for an hour during the big kids’ gymnastics class.  Sometimes we talk about basic math concept, sometimes we talk about letters, sometimes we just read.   This week he picked out an activity book with mazes, stickers and dot to dots.

He also got very upset that he couldn’t play the spelling game with us.  So he took the dry erase board after the game, and started asking me how to spell cat, dog, and a few other short words.  He actually managed to sort of write a few of the words I told him how to spell!  I was pretty impressed, considering I haven’t taught him any writing.  He is just learning by proximity, I guess! 😉

Math for Mr. E:  We worked on place value and traditional names for the 10s and teens with lessons 41-44 of RightStart B, as well as doing a few pages of Singapore 1-A and starting Lesson 45 of RS-B on adding numbers with answers in the teens.  The “stations game” to practice traditional names for the tens is pictured.

Math for Miss M:  We started Level D of RightStart this week.  I knew there was some review at the beginning of Level D, but once I took a really good look at it, I was really shocked by just how much there is!  I gave Miss M the 1st quarter test, and, except for one section on liquid measurement, she could complete the entire test!  I actually pondered ditching RightStart D altogether for something else, but when I broached that subject with Miss M (who really is not one to like change!), she said she really, really wanted to stick with RightStart.

So after stewing on it for a couple days, I think I came up with a plan that will work for us.  I went through the lessons and identified 22 of the first 86 lessons that will actually need me to teach Miss M a new concept (after lesson 86, it’s pretty much all new concepts).  There’s no need to rush, so we probably won’t do one of these brand new lessons every day.   We only need to average 3.35 lessons per week to finish D by the end of the school year, so we’ll feel free to take some extra days to play games (or just not have a “together” time for math — a “day off” of math for me!)

I think Miss M still could use review and practice (especially practice to develop speed) on some of the concepts in those other lessons we won’t do together, so I’ll be assigning her the workbook pages corresponding to those lessons she already understands as independent work.   I’ll also be assigning her pages of multiplication practice so she doesn’t forget all those multiplication facts she started learning at the end of level C.

This week, besides that 1st Quarter test, we did a couple lessons with “calendar math problems” from the beginning of the level, plus two lessons on liquid measurement.  We drew a nifty diagram to help remember Quarts, Gallons, Pints and so on…but I seem to have missed using the picture of it.  I’ll have to share that later.  🙂

History: We continued Ben and Me as our all-together fiction read-aloud, and also started If You Were There in 1776 as a non-fiction read-aloud all together.  Miss M finished Felicity’s World, and read several short historical fiction chapter books (including 4 of the 6 “Felicity” American Girl books).

Science (not pictured):  It’s really a good thing I bought Sassafras Science Zoology for Miss M, because the last few weeks that been pretty much our only science other than co-op.  While I feel more confident than ever in teaching BFSU lessons, with having to prepare lessons for my co-op class (which none of my kids happen to be in),  I haven’t been as motivated to prepare separate BFSU lessons for my kids.  And all my kids (especially Miss M) still remember the materials in the lessons I am preparing for co-op.  Note to self…go order those rock samples so we can actually do the Rock and Minerals lessons from BFSU sometime soon!  😉

We are looking forward to a weekend without too many plans, and another busy week next week with all the kids having well-child check-ups, election day and co-op day!

Have a wonderful weekend! I’m linking up with Collage Friday and the Weekly Wrap-Up.

Homegrown Learners
 

Logic of English Essentials Update (July/August 2012) August 14, 2012

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:06 pm
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While I hadn’t necessarily been planning on posting very much this week…I had the night “off” from directing VBC tonight (thanks to one of my co-laborers who insisted she could run the show tonight), and writing a blog post seemed like an enjoyable way to spend a bit of my extra time.

I wrote a post a few months ago about my initial thoughts on using the Logic of English Essentials curriculum.  I’m intending to post continued thoughts about LOE-E and snapshots of how we’re using the curriculum throughout the year.  After a six-weeks-or-so break from all formal schoolwork, Spelling was one of the first subjects we added back in early July.  We started lesson 7 today, so we’re still early on in the program.

 

We’re still enjoying the games:

Though I do have to say it presents a challenge that Mr. K insists on playing with us most of the time.  But he barely knows his letters, much less his phonograms.  I also haven’t been working a whole lot with Mr. E yet on knowing all the sounds each phonogram makes (that’s on the to-do list once we get rolling with a full school schedule in September).  So, it makes for rather interesting game playing.  We still have only tried phonogram games for the most part.  I’d like to try some spelling word games soon.

 

I did make up my own game to practice choosing long A sounds.  I created cards for the various ways of spelling the /long A/ sound that we studied in lesson 4:

And Miss M and Mr. E had to run and grab the card that explained why a word has a /long A/ sound as I announced each word.   It was an okay, active game.  I think I could do something similar with /Long O/ sound words we are now studying in lesson 7.

 

Helpful Videos:

Logic of English has a YouTube channel.  I found the recent video of LOE author Denise Eide demonstrating how to do spelling dictation to be particularly helpful.  I discovered I was doing the “finger clues” for the number of letters in each phonogram incorrectly.  I also had Miss M watch the video.  She kept trying to tell me that I was “giving away” how to spell the words when I dictated a spelling list to her.  Having only done traditional “spelling tests” in the past, she didn’t quite understand that the point of spelling dictation is really to learn words that she may not already know.  Seeing the video helped her understand that I didn’t just make up some crazy way of teaching spelling words.  😉

 

ING-ANG-ONG-UNG:

I noticed that Miss M was having a hard time with the sounds associated with the -ng phonogram, so I created a little worksheet to help her.  Mr. E used it as well:

During review lesson #5 I noticed that Miss M would hear a word ending in -ng and have a hard time deciding which vowel sound she was hearing in front of that phonogram. I was hoping that if she created a little visual to go with each sound, it might help her keep the sounds straight.  We haven’t revisited those words yet to see if this helped.  Writing this out reminds me that I need to do that.  🙂

 

Writing Stories:

Miss M asked if she could write a story with her spelling words each week.  I said, “Of course!”   She is pretty good about asking how to spell words she doesn’t know but wants to add to the story.  She has written two stories so far — the first contained no mistakes (not counting words we haven’t worked on that she asked about first before writing down), and the second story only contained a couple of small mistakes.  One mistake that was kind of funny to me was her spelling of the word “later.”  She insisted several times that it must be “lader” — because that is how it sounds when she says it!  I had to write down “late” and “later” before it clicked for her!  Maybe “enunciation” or “articulation”  is a subject we’ll have to pay more attention to in the future!

 

Copywork:

I had Miss M do a copywork page using a suggested sentence to remember the nine words where EA says /long a/:

I’m also planning on reinforcing the spelling rules throughout the year by creating copywork pages based on each rule!

 

Biggest thing I dislike so far:

So, no program is perfect and I knew eventually I might find something I disliked about LOE-E.   I am finding I really don’t like the format of the workbook so much.  Not the activities themselves — those are fine.  It’s the kind of paper they are printed on and the perforations.

I’ll be honest and say that Miss M has had some moments of frustration while doing spelling dictation (though mostly before we watched the video — that really did help a lot!).  And when erasing needed to happen…the thin paper the workbook is printed on ripped very easily.  I think we have had no less than three out of six spelling dictation workbook pages we attempted to use ruined by ripping/holes during frustrated erasing.

And the pages really don’t stay in the workbook very well.   This is all fine and good I am sure for use in schools where papers are turned in to the teacher.  But I would prefer to keep a workbook together to use for review and reference and that’s just not going to happen with this workbook.  I really appreciate that the cost was kept low for this massive workbook, but I think I am now feeling like I would have gladly paid more for a nice spiral bound workbook with regular paper.

I’m still mulling over my options — I might purposely pull out a lesson’s worth of pages at a time and hole punch them or use my proclick binder on them.  At least they might stay together that way.  It wouldn’t solve the ripping problem, but I am crossing my fingers that we’ll have fewer frustrations in the future.

I’ll plan to share another update in a month or two!

 

Initial Impressions of “The Logic of English Essentials” Curriculum June 7, 2012

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:15 am
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At our state homeschooling convention this past April, I made a big investment: I purchased the Logic of English Essentials curriculum and some of its supporting products.  We didn’t have very many weeks to use it before we hit our six week summer break but, it made a big impression on Miss M. When asked about her favorite thing that happened during 2nd grade, she said “finding a new spelling curriculum!”  I was pretty shocked to hear her say this. After all, we did a lot of great stuff this year!  I have to agree though that stumbling across Logic of English is something I’m pretty happy about from this year too.

Our Past Spelling Experiences

Before I get into my impressions of the Essentials curriculum, here’s a little background on what led me to the decision to buy it.  Our first experience with a spelling curriculum came along for the ride with the phonics package I wanted to use with Miss M.  After a few missteps and a bit of experimentation, we hit upon a method of reading/phonics instruction that worked well for Miss M.  We used the curriculum Alphabet Island, which teaches phonics by turning the alphabet into some clever characters.   It then uses a variety of songs and stories to teach various phonics rules and concepts.  This was my first exposure to any type of phonics or spelling rule beyond “i before e except after c” and a few simple statements of that ilk.  I had no idea that there was any sort of pattern, for instance to when “c” or “g” said their hard or soft sounds.

Alphabet Island level 1 got Miss M through reading and spelling three-letter cvc words in Kindergarten.  Then level 2A helped Miss M in first grade to improve her phonics skills to a bit more complex level and start reading and spelling a few varieties of words four letters and longer.  A couple months into first grade, Miss M’s reading ability suddenly took off.  I don’t know exactly how this worked out, but in a matter of weeks she went from solidly sounding out a variety of four letter words, to reading easier chapter books with ease.   We didn’t really need Alphabet Island for learning phonics any longer, but it quickly became clear that Miss M could not spell many, many of the word she could read.

We pressed on through Level 2A of Alphabet Island and started level 2B.  Miss M did weekly spelling lists and filled out workbook pages.  I loved the clever way it presented various spelling rules.  But it wasn’t sticking.  Words that Miss M knew one week were gone the next.  Words correct on a spelling test would be incorrect everywhere else. She didn’t know when to apply which rule.

One thing Alphabet Island does not emphasize is the teaching of all the sounds each phonogram makes.  After a bit of reading and research, I thought a program that teaches phonograms might help Miss M to make improvements.  Being the generally budget-conscious person that I am, I decided to try out “How to Teach Spelling” (HTTS) and it’s companion workbooks. It’s one of several curricula based on the Orton-Gillingham approach to spelling and phonics.

We tried out HTTS for the first few months of this past year (Miss M’s 2nd grade year).  I really can’t fault this curriculum much at all in terms of its underlying principles.   How to Teach Spelling has many of the same underlying principles as Logic of English!  However, it is not particularly user friendly.  I could ask Miss M to fill out workbook pages, but then I had to skip around to various portions of a teacher manual and use some guesswork to figure out exactly which portions I was supposed to use when to somehow teach the rest of a lesson.  The authors recommend teaching all the phonograms and their sounds, but I was on my own to make flash cards or find other ways to accomplish this task.  So, in other words, we really didn’t practice the phonograms much at all.  I didn’t have the time or energy to figure all that out on my own.

After Christmas I pretty much abandoned How to Teach Spelling in favor of just trying to teach Miss M the words she herself was misspelling.  She completed exercises in a writing workbook, and then I would correct her spelling and make lists of oft-misspelled words.  She practiced these words on scratch paper or on the iPad.  But still her spelling was not improving.  She was still spelling the same words wrong over and over again and misapplying the rules she did know.

Enter “The Logic of English”!

Earlier this year, I read Denise Eide’s book, Uncovering The Logic of English.  You can read my thoughts on it in this post, but needless to say it made a big impression on me.   The more I learned about teaching reading and spelling by teaching the phonograms and a few simple spelling rules, the more I wanted to really do a good job of teaching spelling in this way.

And based on my experiences with How to Teach Spelling, I knew I needed a curriculum that would “hold my hand” and tell me what to do each day to make it happen.  Life is just busy around here and while I can fly by the seat of my pants or do my own planning for some subjects, spelling just isn’t one of them.

Using Logic of English Essentials

I started using the Logic of English Essentials as soon as I brought it home from the convention.  After reviewing the teacher manual, I decided we would try and work through the curriculum at the curriculum at the pace of 1 lesson per week with Miss M (finishing 2nd grade, and moving into 3rd grade next year), while simultaneously teaching Mr. E (age 5, just starting Kindergarten) the phonograms.  The Logic of English Essentials teacher’s manual offers a variety of suggested schedules — from an intense remedial schedule that could be completed in a couple of months to a multi-year schedule for younger learners.

I’ve already been teaching Mr. E to read using Phonics Pathways as well as a variety of phonics-based easy readers.  That method is working well for him, so we’ll continue that while incorporating information from Logic of English.  We discuss spelling in informal ways currently, and my gut feeling is that spelling will come more easily to him than it has to Miss M.  I’ll start moving through the spelling lessons with Mr. E once he is reading a bit better and is more comfortable writing in something other than just all upper case printing.  That may be right away this fall, or it may be later — I’m not quite sure yet.

The format of the lessons in the Logic of English Essentials teacher’s manual makes it easy for the parent to pick up the manual and use it without a lot of prior preparation.  Each lesson tells you what to say if you need exact prompts, tells you what materials to use and which activities or workbook pages to complete.  The lesson is divided into several parts, making it easy to spread the lesson out over a week or more and still know what to do each day. The only prior preparation that may be necessary is sorting through the phonogram flash cards (and game cards if you are going to use any) to find the new sounds you want to add to your “deck.”  The first week I didn’t do this ahead of time, and I had some frustrated students on my hands while I looked through a big stack of cards and decided what we needed.

Each lesson generally seems to follow the same basic format, so even after just three lessons (aka three weeks of use), Miss M seemed very comfortable with the process and knew just what to expect.  Each lesson has several “optional” exercises as well as the main exercises if students need more practice in certain areas.  Grammar and Vocabulary development activities are included, but you can omit those if you prefer or spend less time on them.  With the grammar in particular, we will be just lightly covering this material as I have plans for more in-depth grammar study once Miss M reaches 4th grade.

I bought the optional, but very useful, Phonogram and Spelling Game Book as well.  Not every lesson incorporates games, but if you have a younger learner or a learner who finds games to be a very useful method of study having the game book will be very useful in finding additional ways to practice.  The book features card games, paper games (like bingo), games that could be played with a chalk/dry erase board and active games for learning while playing something like hopscotch.  I like the fact that the games can easily be tailored to multiple ability levels.  I expect Miss M to know all the sounds a phonogram makes, I allow Mr. E some leeway to remember “most” of the sounds (as a five-year-old it is taking him a bit longer to remember all the sounds for some of the phonograms that have three or four sounds!) and I can even include Mr. K at times as he is beginning to learn the names of letters and perhaps one sound that each letter makes.

Q and A about Logic of English Essentials

I’ve been gushing to friends about our new spelling curriculum, and they have asked some good questions.  I’m guessing that other people may be wondering about some of the same things:

Is it worth the money?

This is a big question on many people’s minds! Logic of English is more expensive than some “basic” spelling programs.   The teacher’s manual and one workbook without any extras runs $120.  However most of those “basic” spelling programs either require more teacher prep/decision making (as I discovered with How to Teach Spelling) OR they are not phonogram/rule based.  If you have a student who needs direct instruction in spelling (aka they aren’t just a really natural speller) and you want the benefits of a rule/phonogram based spelling program and you want the prep-work done for you, then clearly this is worth your money.

If you have a student who seems to excel with weekly spelling lists or just remembers easily how to spell words, then this whole program might not be worth the money.  However, I believe that everyone could benefit from the basic principles outlined in “Uncovering the Logic of English”, so you could just consider purchasing Denise Eide’s book and teaching your student some of those rules and principles to give them the “why” behind the words they already know how to spell.

Also, keep in mind you are getting big, high quality books for your $120.  The teacher’s manual is a large, sturdy, hardcover book. It should hold up well over use for multiple students and I would guess retain its resale value well because it won’t be falling apart.  The student workbook is definitely consumable, but again, you are getting a big book for your $25.    You might be able to just use a notebook instead or have students write their work on a dry-erase board, but I have seen much smaller/thinner workbooks sold for a similar price!

Purchases of the supporting materials for this curriculum do add up a bit as well (phonogram cards, rule cards, game cards, etc).  Other than the Game book, many of the other “extras” could be made yourself if you have time on your hands.  If time is on your side, go for it.  But if you are limited on time as I am with four kids, then it seems very worth while to just have all the phonogram cards and so on ready to go!

How much time do you need to spend each day on spelling? Can the student work independently?

The amount of time spent will depend on the schedule selected.  If you want to go with the fast-paced remedial learner schedule, Eide recommends as much as an hour or two per day.  For the schedule we are following, 30 to 60 minutes per day is recommended.   I find that we are spending about 30 minutes per day, unless we are playing a game that takes longer to complete.  A portion of the lesson (mainly workbook practice) can be done independently but the parent will be spending a majority of the lesson time with the student.  Time spent with younger students will vary depending on their patience and readiness.   Mr. E’s patience so far for practicing phonograms or playing games is rarely longer than 15 minutes or so.  That’s fine, since I don’t expect a five year old to move through the material very quickly.

Have you found any similar programs? Who would or wouldn’t like Logic of English?

The program I most often see Logic of English compared to is All About Spelling.  Both programs have a lot of the same underpinnings, but teach the material differently.  All About Spelling is divided into more levels that are individually less than the cost of this program, but purchases of those levels will quickly add up as well.  I have not used All About Spelling so I can’t really fairly compare the two.  If you are looking for a rules/phonogram based spelling program, however, that is probably the other program you would want to check out.  As you read about both, you can find out which program’s approach and teachings methods appeal more to you and your students.

If you are looking for a program with a limited amount of writing, then Logic of English Essentials might not be the program for you, though you could conceivably do many of the exercises in modified ways if you have a student that struggles with writing.

If you don’t like having lots of pieces and parts to keep track of, then you might find the “games” aspect of this program annoying — but the program should work without the games, so don’t let that alone keep you from checking out this program.

It’s also not a program that can be completed independently, as I mentioned earlier.  You need to make sure that you as the parent have the time to spend teaching your student.

How well do you think this would work as a stand-alone curriculum to teach a younger student (Preschool or Kindergarten) how to read and spell?

Logic of English essentials does have a schedule for younger students to complete the program over the course of two years.  I think using the program with younger students is not quite as “open and go” as it is for a bit older students who already know how to read and have the maturity to sit and complete 30 minutes of spelling work.  First, you would need to make sure your younger student can recognize, know the sounds of, and probably also write the letters A to Z in lower case. Students also need a basic level of phonemic awareness (activities are included, but not extensively scheduled out). You would then have to decide how to break up the parts of each lesson into smaller chunks and when to add additional games.

Since Logic of English is primarily a spelling curriculum, you would at minimum need to add plenty of phonics-based readers for practicing blending words together.  LOE Essentials moves in one lesson from mostly three letter words to four and five letter words.  Based on my limited experience, most beginning readers need lots of practice at the CVC or  “three letter word” blending phase, and additional practice for consonant blends, and so on. While the building blocks (the phonograms and rules) are presented, you would be “on your own” to practice these concepts.

I have a suspicion that most parents would be happier using some other curriculum prior to or along side of Logic of English Essentials for teaching a younger student to read.  I would suggest checking out Phonics Pathways or The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, as these programs will provide more step-by-step reading practice.

Have any other questions? I will try and answer them in the comments, or check out the Logic of English website, including their forums!

 

P.S. (Added May 12, 2013):  We’ve now been using Logic of English Essentials for over a year! Read my one-year-later update here.